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Today it was day one of the Opposition members’ turn to surgically break down the Barrow Administration’s 2017-2018 budget estimates presented to the country by Prime Minister Dean Barrow last week Monday March 13. The Government is proposing to spend $1.18 billion in the next fiscal year, propped up by $88.1 million dollars which will be obtained directly from new tax measures. Opposition Leader Hon. John Briceno opened the debate repeating his charge that the financial numbers and economic projections are simply unreal.


Screen_Shot_2017-03-23_at_8.05.45_PMHonourable John Briceno - Leader of the Opposition People’s United Party


“This budget reminds me of the Spanish saying; tarde or temprano la verdad alcanza la mentira, now if the honorable member from Orange Walk North was here, Madam Speaker he could have explained to the Prime minister what it means, its simply saying the truth will always catch up to the lies, when you look at the expenditure side of the budget you realize that this UDP administration lacks any real fiscal discipline for they are planning to continue splurging the burden of a sturdy is only for the tax payers were being asked to pay more taxes, in every ministry we find high elevated administrative costs for reference you need only look at the budget and compare the approved recurrent expenditure for 2016/2017 which was $959,192,968.00 and the projected outturn $995,421,042.00, this UDP government in its recurrent expenditure spent 36 million dollars more than it budgeted, the Prime Minister in his presentation said that his priorities of his budget will help government to live within its means, that it will support Belizeans families,  invest in the skills of our young people, make Belize a better place to do business and to live, which planet is this Prime Minister on, is he aware that we had over one hundred murders last year and this year already we have had thirty murders in eighty days, did he forget that our economy contracted by 0.8% or that Belizeans are afraid in their homes, afraid in the streets and afraid on the job, it is this kind of hyperbole that causes us to declare this budget bogus how can he achieve any of this when he can’t even grow the Belizean economy.”

 

Honourable John Saldivar - Member, Belmopan


“So that we can be assured, Madam Speaker that as sure that as night follows day the Belizean economy will rebound in fact its already beginning to rebound. Conservative projections for growth for 2017 has our economy growing by what as our Prime Minister described a muscular 3.5% that is why the Prime Minister ‘s budget was aptly titled bouncing back,  a bold Belizean recovery; shrimp is bouncing back Madam Speaker, citrus is bouncing back, sugar is holding steady in fact has increased as a result of Santander coming online, tourism continues to grow, Madam Speaker after a short twelve months or so of contraction the Belizean economy is bouncing back and just as how they blamed the UDP for the recession, the short recession, they must give credit to the UDP and to our great Prime Minister for leading this quick recovery .”


Honourable Cordel Hyde, Member, Lake Independence


“If I ever I reach the point where I kiss up to my boss like the member from Belmopan you should personally lead the charge to recall me because that was kind of embarrassing you are to worship god no worship man; licky, licky that is the description, I understand. In the case of this UDP empire in Belize their house is on fire and yet still they intend are on spend the usual millions of dollars on new vehicles and foreign travel and the usual millions on swanky ambassadorial apartments and all offices all over this world, you see for the UDP families and friends and their children nothing will change for them in this budget you know, the good times will continue to roll, their standard of living will remain the same but it is the ordinary people, the poor people, the unemployed people, the teachers and public officers they are the ones who will feel the burden, the government say there will be belt tightening the ministries and departments, they say saving will be accrued from telephones and electricity consumption and the rent and medical supplies but the truth of the matter is Madam Speaker, when the public officers look around and see the ministers changing vehicle like money don’t matter or they see the amount of contract officers and their monies they are been paid annually for their good looks or they see the amount of oversize contracts being given to cronies without the benefits of tender, the public officers has no real incentive to aggressively curtail costs and we are not even talking about the amount of fuel they see their ministers and their cronies consume daily in their gas gosling government vehicles in many cases to do absolutely nothing.”


Honourable John Briceno - Leader of the Opposition People’s United Party


“The prime Minister just told us in his budget speech that sixty cents of every dollar collected by government goes to pay salaries, pensions, and so on in so doing his administration is admitting that once more they cannot afford to do anything to help the productive sector in a meaningful way, we need to ensure that the productive sector and the private sector serve as engine of economic growth for this to happen the connection between the government and the productive sector must not only be respectful but symbiotic, here lies the failure of the Barrow administration, yes their rhetoric speaks of partnership but in practice it goes contrary to the fundamental principles of mutual respect in reality all that the productive sector has come to expect from their government are a couple workshops and the annual budget consultation with the technocrats, the budget therefore cannot be seeing as a genuine attempt to grow the economy when the formulation is so one sided as a result the budget is no reflection of our stakeholders and all the economics and fiscal forecast on which the budget is premised is bogus therefore the budget itself is bogus.”

 

Hon. Briceno looked deeper at the budget figures, in particular those revised estimates for last year and the projections for the upcoming year. He slammed the PM, saying that his financial management skills would not last in the real business world.


Honourable John Briceno - Leader of the Opposition People’s United Party


“As for the Prime Minister’s projected Primary surplus of 37 Million dollars we ended up with a primary deficit of 56 Million dollars instead an actual shortfall of 93 Million dollars or 1.6% of GDP, if the Prime Minister was a CEO in a company they would had fired him long time this is in spite of the dramatic increase in fuel prices, I think they increase it by another 50 Million dollars last year, right now we are paying about fifty cents of every dollars you pay to the pump it goes to the government and with all of that they still short of 93 Million dollars imagine instead of an overall deficit of 60 Million this UDP government had an overall deficit of 160 Million dollars almost 100 Million dollars worse than projected in other words the Prime Minister went on and axed us more, borrowed more and spend more almost 300 Million dollars more of money the Government does not have. Given this picture how can the Prime Minister proclaim that his 2017’s budget will provide the condition to rescue and recovery, our economy continues to be in a recession and it is on the verge of a depression, our national debt will once again increase by another 100 Million dollars and the government remains clueless about how to fix the key pillars of our economy which is to restore private sector confidence and support the agro productive sector.”

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